Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

Archive for August 2nd, 2011

Well, we agree on something …

Posted by DNW on 2011/08/02

What we agree on is the the point in contention.

Regarding the budget?  No,  regarding the issue behind the current budget debate.

“With whom?” you ask? Hold on, hold on. Let me, as they say, ‘splain.

Back in January of this year, a somewhat prescient seeming – if you’ve been asleep for the last 40 years – opinion piece appeared addressing this particular issue.

It was mooted by Paul Krugman, the  bearded lady moralizer hired by the New York Times to pontificate on every topic economic and not.  Surprisingly he managed to lay his delicately tapered finger [yeah I know that is stolen from Thomas Mann] on the heart of the matter: A deep moral chasm that separates the sensibilities and ideals of conservatives and libertarians on the one hand,  from the disciples of the religion of humanism, or transhumanism, or “our secular democratic faith”, or whatever rhetorical line it is that the that the collectivist class managers are peddling today in order to justify their habitation of whatever sociopolitical and often tax supported niche they have managed to occupy, on the other.  Long sentence, eh?
Herr Krugman writes:

” … the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it’s about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice. …

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose. “

Now this framing of the issue as one of divergent and irreconcilable moralities, which we happen to agree on, comes loaded with presuppositions regarding their relative virtues and logic, about which we don’t.  Krugman promises to justify the substance of his moral presuppositions by laying out the logic underlying them, and by rebutting the assumptions of the contrary position in future issues, ” In future columns I will no doubt spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy and logical fallacies of the “I earned it and I have the right to keep it” crowd. And I’ll also have a lot to say about how far we really are from being a society of equal opportunity, in which success depends solely on one’s own efforts. ”

But there is no need to wait for further demonstrations of Magister Krugman’s ethical and logical wizardry. Having seen what he is about to do many times before, we know what he – and by extension his ideologically aligned crew – will say and do before he does it.

It goes like this: Your life is not really yours [except in the the event you might wish to have an abortion or express some morbid sexual perversion] because it is contextually generated within a social order. Your talents are not your own to any greater extent; and, insofar as they are biologically particular to you, you have no right to any special benefits derived from their “social exercise”. You are a social element: Part of an ever growing, ever evolving, ever more inclusive circle of concern.

Your failure to express concern and solidarity is in fact what kills the weak.

To quote Herr Krugman once again, but from another piece, “Poverty is Poison“:

“L. B. J. declared his “War on Poverty” 44 years ago. Contrary to cynical legend, there actually was a large reduction in poverty over the next few years, especially among children, who saw their poverty rate fall from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent in 1969.

But progress stalled thereafter: American politics shifted to the right, attention shifted from the suffering of the poor to the alleged abuses of welfare queens driving Cadillacs, and the fight against poverty was largely abandoned.

In 2006, 17.4 percent of children in America lived below the poverty line, substantially more than in 1969. And even this measure probably understates the true depth of many children’s misery.

Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society.”

It’s not just lead paint chips anymore. Alienation causes stress, and stress makes you stupid, and therefore the solution to poverty is to end alienation. Love the bearded lady or else …

Now, some of Krugman’s implications in his “A Tale of Two Moralities” seem to contradict inferences which we may draw from his “Poverty is Poison” piece. For example in A Tale of Two Moralities, Krugman writes:

“This deep divide in American political morality — for that’s what it amounts to — is a relatively recent development. Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it. As many analysts have noted, the Obama health reform — whose passage was met with vandalism and death threats against members of Congress — was modeled on Republican plans from the 1990s.”

Yet in “Poverty is Poison”, as we saw further above, Krugman writes,

” …[Children] …  saw their poverty rate fall from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent in 1969.

But progress stalled thereafter: American politics shifted to the right, attention shifted from the suffering of the poor to the alleged abuses of welfare queens driving Cadillacs, and the fight against poverty was largely abandoned.

In 2006, 17.4 percent of children in America lived below the poverty line, substantially more than in 1969. And even this measure probably understates the true depth of many children’s misery.”

So we all yearn for the days of yesteryear when civility and the welfare presupposition reigned. A time until just recently, when even Republicans accepted the legitimacy of and sometimes assisted in the expansion of, the welfare state. Yet despite its 40 years of additional officially accepted life, the welfare state has seemingly done nothing to end the poisoning of the alienated impoverished since 1969.

This outcome and Krugman’s prescriptive ranting in the face of it, leads one to ask what these characters really want, and when is enough enough?

And the answer to that is they want you, every aspect of you, in harness; and enough is never enough. In fact, the question of “you” doesn’t even obtain in their analysis, apart from the aspect of you, interpreted as a means of social production satisfied enough to reach maximal output.
Maximal output? Why?

Because, there is just so much need, don’t you know …

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